Several bills passed during the 2010 and 2011 legislative sessions that will take effect on July 1. And one of those laws will change the procedure that allows some DWI offenders to get back behind the wheel.
Under the new law, repeat DWI offenders and first-time offenders whose alcohol concentration was at least double the legal limit, will have to use an ignition interlock device to drive legally in the state. The law is a statewide expansion of a successful pilot program, which is already in place in Hennepin county.
An ignition interlock device is a breathalyzer, installed to a motor vehicle's dashboard, which tests a drivers blood alcohol concentration, before the vehicle's motor can be started. If a driver’s breath exceeds a preset breath-alcohol content limit, which will be 0.02, the car won’t start. Also, once the engine has been started, the IID will randomly require another breath sample, preventing a friend or relative from breathing into the device, enabling the intoxicated person to get behind the wheel and drive away. If a driver fails a test, the vehicle will not operate.
Under the law, first-time offenders whose alcohol concentration is below twice the legal limit will have a choice of getting a limited license, as is in current law, or getting full driving privileges provided they use the ignition interlock device
According to a statement from the Minnesota House of Representatives, the goal of the new law is to keep, “people who drink and drive off state roadways.”
Alcohol-related crashes account for approximately one-third of all state traffic deaths each year. The 131 alcohol-related deaths in 2010 is a drop from the 141 in 2009 and the lowest count since 1984, when this statistic was first measured. And the Minnesota Department of Public Safety (DPS) Office of Traffic Safety attributes some of this drop to this ignition interlock system.
Under the new law, it would be a misdemeanor penalty tampering with the device or to help the car by breathing into the device in the place of the driver. The law permits a holder of a B-Card to apply to have the no-alcohol restriction removed from their driving record if the person has not violated the abstinence condition for the past 10 years. A B-Card is issued to a multiple-DWI offender who wants to keep driving and pledges not to drink any alcohol. A no-alcohol restriction is visible on the card.
The law was sponsored by former Rep. Karla Bigham (DFL-Cottage Grove) and former Sen. Steve Murphy (DFL-Red Wing).
The legal alcohol limit for drivers in Minnesota is 0.08. It is always illegal to drive with an alcohol-concentration level of 0.08 or above. Motorists can be arrested under 0.08 if they demonstrate impaired driving behavior. If a motorist’s alcohol-concentration is at 0.08 percent or higher, it is a criminal offense with penalties ranging from misdemeanor to felony. It is also a violation of civil law that triggers automatic driver license revocation for up to a year.
Also, impaired driving is still a factor in one-third of all deaths, matching historical trends. Last year, 29,918 motorists were arrested for DWI, a 9 percent decrease from 2009 (32, 756). One in seven Minnesota drivers has a DWI.
Hennepin County DWI Incidents 2008 -2010
Hennepin County DWI Incidents 2010